That Old Black Magic

  • The Song
  • Back Stories
composition date
Harold Arlen
Johnny Mercer
related performer(s)
Frank Sinatra
Cab Calloway
Glenn Miller

Tells a story

Harold Arlen: "The words sustain your interest, make sense, contain memorable phrases and tell a story. Without the lyric, the song would be just another song."

But what can I do?

Johnny Mercer meant his 1942 lyric, set to Harold Arlen’s tune, to refer specifically to Judy Garland, with whom he was having an affair. The song consists of the famous line: “I should stay away, but what can I do?”

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